CSotD: Abilities, disabilities, inabilities

(RJ Matson)

(Nick Anderson)

Matson and Anderson use two popular elements of Dear Leader’s West Point speech to note the impact of his slipping polls.


(Ed Hall)


(Steve Sack)

Hall and Sack skip the metaphor and simply point out the way the shoe is suddenly on the other foot, as Trump becomes vulnerable to the same schoolyard bullying he has been dishing out for four years.

But then, to focus the conversation, Senator Tammy Duckworth offers her own, hard-won perspective:

The sum of all this could be that I just walk away and let y’all fight it out on your own, but when did I ever have that kind of sense?

Duckworth — and the Atlantic article she references — are right that walking down ramps and drinking water unaided are not necessary qualifications for the presidency.

However, they both vehemently insist that Trump is not fit to be president and object only to the idea that his physical abilities are not what disqualifies him.

Certainly, Duckworth is in the right position to challenge the fitness of a man who lied about his feet to avoid serving his country, while she volunteered to serve and gave up her legs.

And I’d agree with her that this is something not to be overplayed: Whether Trump can do handsprings down the ramp says nothing about his ability to govern, while his demonstrated incapacity as a national leader does.


Except as Hall and Sack point out, Trump has launched petty, cruel attacks on other people and opened himself up to what goes around coming around.

Granted, the fact that someone has behaved like an ass may open them to vengeance but doesn’t require anyone to take that low road.

A philosophical, ethical point which would carry more weight if we were talking about opposition to a philosophical, ethical opponent in a world in which philosophy and ethics were effective tools.

Politics ain’t beanbag, however, and when you oppose a man who was elected on a platform of childish, middleschool insults, there is plenty of tactical, if dubiously ethical, justification for using what has worked for him against him.

There’s also this: Trump has consistently lied about his physical health, from dictating a fatuous letter to cover his first presidential fitness report to recently approving one that claims he is six-three and weighs 235 pounds.


Which launched the “#Girther” movement, as people rushed to show comparisons between Trump and various athletes of the same reported dimensions.

Though, in all fairness, (A) small quarterbacks often report higher-than-accurate weights and (B) fat takes up more space than toned muscle.

But, again, when did fairness have anything to do with this presidency?

Duckworth is right to be offended at the giggling, but there’s more than Instant Karma to justify the weaponizing of the West Point stumbles: Seen in the context of Trump’s repeated contentions that Joe Biden is unfit for the office, and his previous, specious attacks on Hillary Clinton’s physical fitness, they form a valid counterargument aimed at the same audience.

And with all due respect to the ethical loveliness of “When they go low, we go high,” there is also Leo Durocher’s observation that “Nice guys finish last.”

Which reminds me of the moment Dukakis lost me: When, in a 1988 debate, Bernard Shaw asked him, if his wife were raped and murdered, would he abandon his opposition to the death penalty?

Instead of challenging Shaw for such a cruel, loaded, asinine question, the cold fish answered it calmly and never mind riding around in a tank because his bloodless response was enough to cost him dearly.

It was the polar opposite of his runningmate’s deadly, immortal response, in the VP debates, to Dan Quayle, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

Which is to say that you don’t have to use a chain saw when a stiletto will do the job just as well and won’t get blood on the ceiling.

It’s another form of going high.

And then there’s this: Every time Trump sneezes, someone cites the 25th Amendment, but it wasn’t written for this kind of incapacity. It came in the wake of JFK’s assassination, in light of the question of what might have happened if he’d lived?

Nor did it happen in a vacuum: The public knew of Wilson’s stroke, though it was never clear (and still isn’t) how incapacitated he was. And they knew FDR had polio as a young man, but he actively covered up the extent of his paralysis as president, not that it impacted his ability to govern.

And, as noted in that above linked Atlantic piece, Ike was honest about his heart attack but Kennedy kept his physical limitations secret.

And, all that background aside, if you expect this vice-president and this cabinet and this Congress to move to take Trump out of office, you haven’t been paying attention.

Plus there’s this: If they did make that move, it wouldn’t be completed by November 3 anyway.

Vote. And bring a friend or two.


In other news that used to be news:


Ann Telnaes comments on reports that Dear Leader is planning a speech on race relations, written by a white supremacist, while small brown children remain caged on our Southern border.

At which point his ability to drink unaided or to dance down a ramp like the Nichols Brothers indeed seems somewhat secondary.

I posted a sarcastic question online last night, wondering if, with all the pandemics and riots and suchlike going on, anyone had remembered to feed those kids.

To which I got a non-sarcastic answer.


They may be yesterday’s news to the world at large, but there’s a contingent of cartoonists who have not forgotten them, or their parents, and have put together a collection of stories on the topic.


Ars longa, vita brevis

2 thoughts on “CSotD: Abilities, disabilities, inabilities

  1. I notice that you use the Leo Durocher quote in a sense it was not meant to have. He did not mean that nice guys are losers; here is something I wrote about that six years ago:

    One of the most infamous misquotes in relatively recent history comes from Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher: “Nice guys finish last”. This phrase has been forever locked into American English as meaning that people, especially men, who are nice, are losers. What Durocher actually said was a long way from that interpretation.

    On 6 July 1946, Durocher was talking to a reporter, and he mentioned the New York Giants, who were then in last place in the National League. What he said was, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

    In his autobiography, titled Nice Guys Finish Last, he expanded on this: “…the Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, ‘Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.’ I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, ‘Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.’ I said, ‘They lose a ball game, they go home, they have a nice dinner, they put their heads down on the pillow and go to sleep. Poor Mel Ott, he can’t sleep at night. He wants to win, he’s got a job to do for the owner of the ball club. But that doesn’t concern the players, they’re all getting good money.’ I said, ‘you surround yourself with this type of player, they’re real nice guys, sure—‘Howarya, Howarya’ and you’re going to finish down in the cellar with them.’”

    So it’s more accurate to say that what Durocher actually meant was “Nice guys don’t always win.” but that isn’t as pithy or catchy, so we end up with nice guys being stigmatized forever.

  2. I was aware of the various versions of Leo’s quote. He didn’t exactly run away from the one that made history, though the version I heard was more pithy, and that he said, “Nice guys. Finish last” and that it soon went from two sentences to one.

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